Her Excellency Mrs Reema Carmona greeted the Autism Awareness Walk and Charity Fair at the Queen’s Park Savannah

The following is the content of Her Excellency’s greeting:

The matter of fact existence and trying circumstances of the differently abled, in Trinidad and Tobago have come to the fore through the tireless work of members of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and the committed activism of many persons making great personal sacrifice on the altar of volunteerism. I wish whole heartedly to congratulate you all on your efforts but the journey continues.

Persons with Autistic Spectrum Disorders are still very much isolated and marginalized and are often victims of our apathy, insensitivity and unkind words. It is an event like this that raising awareness of Autism that will trigger our curiosity to the point of creating a need within us to know more so that we can become advocates in this just cause. We are coming to the end of Autism Awareness month and unlike previous years, I have detected a heightened awareness and concern for those so marginalized. The proverbial talk, must now become the proverbial walk and we can accomplish this by accelerating Autism Awareness into Action.

Yesterday, at the University of the West Indies NODES and Disabilities Unit Conference closing ceremony I spoke about the need for further legislative action. This week however, the Motor Vehicles and Traffic Bill will make it illegal for abled bodied persons parking in designated spaces for the differently abled in supermarkets, pharmacies and public places. It will attract substantial fines for offenders. It would therefore be apparent to all that we have reached a point of behavioural misconduct that the Parliament of our land now has to legislate basic tenets of humanity like consideration, empathy and compassion.

Ladies and gentlemen on a personal level, inconvenience has sometimes been our lame excuse for our apparent lack of inclusivity of the differently abled in mainstream activities and public life. I entreat all of us here not to see the differently abled as inconvenience but rather as a challenge that each of us should take up, to be just and to do right to all manner of persons. Should not there be wheelchair access at every traffic light around this savannah so that the differently abled can enjoy the savannah. The corporate world is represented here today and I pray that those working in the human resource department of the corporate world to look favourably to the differently abled as it relates to job opportunities. You will be surprised about what persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders, can do and have done affirmatively and effectively.

Today I want to applaud everyone here for taking another type of action – physical activity action. I have long been an advocate of healthy lifestyles, encouraging our adults and children alike to have a healthy balanced diet and participate in regular exercise. But far too often, we neglect to consider that persons with disabilities and various disorders need these things as well.

Physical activity is a key part of the socialization process and helps people understand and appreciate each other. It breaks down the wall of ignorance and stereotypes that traditionally separate us. It helps to improve overall health for all involved. We cannot downplay the importance of physical therapy. All the booths here are prime examples of Awareness in Action. Therapy Animal, Healing with Horses, all these avenues are here to promote and assist our families with autism.

Now is the time to let our steps count, with every step we take, and every stride we make, let us now accelerate Autism Awareness into action.